Finding a voice: Sherbourne offers affirming voice lessons for trans women and non-binary femmes

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For trans and non-binary people, transition and expressing gender in a way that feels comfortable and meaningful can entail so many different things for different people. In addition to clothing and pronouns, or perhaps pursuing physical changes, many people also consider how their voice can impact how they are perceived as well as how they feel internally.

To help address a need in the community, Sherbourne Health’s Trans and Non-Binary Programs held a one-day voice exploration workshop in November. Thanks to the great feedback from our service users, this program has now expanded into Mindful Voice Feminization, a six-week program specifically for trans women and non-binary femmes interested in voice modification.

“The pandemic really encouraged LGBT2SQ Community Programs to be innovative and responsive to expand what we could offer to our service users,” says Laura Shephard, Coordinator, Trans and Non-Binary Programs at Sherbourne Health. “While sustaining regular programs like Gender Journeys and social gatherings like Mature Trans Sisters over the past eighteen months, we continue to listen to the needs in the community so we can offer new programs like this one.”

Renée Yoxon, a nonbinary singer, songwriter, trans voice teacher and the session leader for this program, shares that while there are physical aspects to voice modification, there are other aspects to consider. “In this program, there is particular emphasis on the emotional aspects of trans voice work. That means taking the time to set up a good support network and other emotional foundations before launching into work that can feel very vulnerable,” says Renée.

And so far, this approach has been working for our service users. Lilly, a participant in the one-day workshop late last year, says “I love Renee’s positive and energetic vibe. They understand my needs as a voice student and encourage me to explore my voice and just go for it. I am grateful for Sherbourne bringing Renée to guide us in exploring and finding a truly affirming voice.”

“My ultimate goal as a trans voice teacher is to help trans people feel safer and happier,” says Renée. “For some trans folks that means exploring the universe of gender through voice, and for others, that means conforming to expectations of binary gender. Whatever people’s goals are, it can be a beautiful exercise in representing your complex and expensive gender through your voice.”

Lilly adds, “Doing this important work in a group of trans sisters will inspire me to keep exploring.  My voice is one of the most gender affirming and intimate parts of me, as it plays a huge role in connecting me to everyone else. It has become integral to my gender transition.”

The current session of Mindful Voice Feminization is now full, but contact transprograms@sherbourne.on.ca to learn more about future sessions, or other programming on offer.

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